Sri Lanka v England, 3rd Test, Galle, 4th day December 21, 2007

Cook seeks redemption



Alastair Cook: 'It's the tough times you remember more than the good times, in a strange sort of a way' © Getty Images
A weather-ruined day has given England a hope of saving the third and final Test, but it's going to take more than that to wash away the memory of Thursday's abject performance. Generally speaking England's travelling supporters are a stoical bunch, but last night they booed the players as they boarded their bus, and this morning a banner was seen draped over the fort walls, ordering them to "hang their heads in shame".

For Alastair Cook, the opprobrium had the opposite effect. He stood tall until the showers came, batting with the discipline and determination that only the chastised can feel. "It's the tough times you remember more than the good times, in a strange sort of a way," said Cook. "You remember the feelings when it does go bad. Maybe that's the English way, but it definitely gets you motivated, because you don't want to let that happen again."

England haven't let it happen so far in this innings, and their prospects of salvation have been further boosted by the forecast of yet more bad weather for Saturday's final day. It would, however, be an unworthy reprieve and Cook himself knows it. "People might say we are hiding behind the rain, but we want to do it the right way," he said. "It's everyone's right to jump on our back, but it's our aim to turn it around and save face. We're expecting to play seven hours of cricket tomorrow, and we'll focus on batting session by session."

Today's morning session was cut short by five minutes, by what - at the time - appeared to be a passing shower. Forty minutes later, however, the ground was underwater. "It took me by complete surprise," said Cook. "I was just about to put my pads on after lunch and the heavens opened. We had no idea. It's obviously helping us save the game, but after what happened yesterday, we wanted to come out today and show the fight and character we've got in the side, and prove people wrong."

Twenty-four hours on from their mauling at Galle, and Cook still seemed bewildered by what he and his team-mates had been put through. "Momentum in cricket is quite a strange thing," he said. "The way the Sri Lankans bowled was fantastic and we couldn't respond to it. Once you lose a couple of wickets quickly, and then another couple straightaway, it's such a hard thing to stop - it sort of snowballs.

"We've tried to look at [the collapse] ourselves and we've not quite come up with the answer to be honest," said Cook. "It zipped around a bit, they put the ball in great areas and we made mistakes. We've been outplayed, because we didn't bat, bowl or field well enough. Great sides can do that consistently all the time - day in, day out. We're not quite there yet, not by a long way. But we're striving for that."

England's first step towards redemption came in a hard-fought session in which exactly 100 runs were added. Ironic cheers rang out when Cook and Ian Bell eased past that first-innings total of 81, for the loss of just one wicket - that of Michael Vaughan, who completed an unfulfilling series by slashing a wide one to second slip. "The pitch has just lost that half a yard of pace, that zippiness that caused us trouble," said Cook. "It was easier to bat on and hopefully it'll be the same tomorrow."

"You don't need motivating when you see banners in the crowd, or when you're getting booed going onto the bus," he added. "There's no motivation needed. It's hard, because it's not as if we weren't trying, but if you look at the side two years ago, compared to today, there's a whole new band of players. It takes time, firstly to adjust to this level, and then for a side to develop and get to know each other. We'd like a few more ups than downs, but you have to go down to get back up. Days like that can help us in the future."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo